Most foreign oil firms are still keen to operate in Lebanon despite the delay in launching the offshore gas auction, sources said.
“It is true that some of the companies that have submitted requests to explore gas in Lebanon are not too pleased by the auction delay, but nevertheless, they have not given up on the country,” a source in the oil industry told The Daily Star.
Caretaker Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil has postponed the auction from Nov. 10 until Jan. 10 in the hope that rival politicians will come to an understanding on the issue of offshore gas exploration.
A government source said that only one foreign oil company pulled out from the tender process due to financial issues but insisted that the rest of the firms were still waiting for the auction.
He added that the Petroleum Administration was still working diligently despite the delay.
There were reports that some of the firms had told Lebanese officials that they might look for investments in other countries if the auction date was further delayed.
“For the time being most of these companies are interested in staying here because they have bought the gas data for millions of dollars and have even opened offices,” one source said.
He added that the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the United States could induce politicians to speed up the approval of the two crucial decrees that sets the number of gas blocks and determine the ceiling of revenue sharing.
Bassil has been sent numerous letters to President Michel Sleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to hold an extraordinary Cabinet session to pass the two decrees.
But Mikati insists the Constitution does not authorize him to hold a Cabinet session for that purpose.
There is growing concern that the steep political differences between rival politicians and the raging war in Syria will delay the approval of the two decrees until further notice.
One of the sources said a major oil and gas conference in Beirut next week would be attended by the representatives from most of the oil firms bidding for gas exploration.
“This conference shows oil companies are keen to operate in Lebanon despite the political problems in the country,” the source said.
Bassil said recently that Lebanon had 95 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore.
“The current estimate, under a probability of 50 percent, for almost 45 percent of our waters has reached 95.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 865 million barrels of oil,” Bassil said in October.
The British-based company Spectrum is also conducting an onshore seismic oil and gas survey in Lebanon.
The Daily Star